Review: The Little Prince: Reimagined (Puzzle Piece)

Photo of Richard Lam onstage with paper airplanes being thrown at himThe Little Prince gets a contemporary update in a new family play now on stage in Toronto

A few minutes into the The Little Prince: Reimagined all you can hear is the rustle of paper being folded. Almost everyone in the audience is making a paper airplane. Most people are carefully following Richard Lam’s tutorial from the stage; some are winging it, following some half-remembered instructions from childhood. Kids in the audience seem to be following their adult’s lead.

When the rustling dies down and the chatter picks up Lam invites us to throw the planes at him. It’s a delightful start to a charming play. Continue reading Review: The Little Prince: Reimagined (Puzzle Piece)

Review: Towards Youth: A Play on Radical Hope (Project: Humanity/Crow’s Theatre)

I was not familiar with the concept of a documentary play before seeing Towards Youth: A Play on Radical Hope by Project: Humanity and Crow’s Theatre. Of course we are all familiar with a documentary movie, where the idea is to film real life events to entertain, inform, and educate. It turns out that a documentary play involves actors dramatizing real life events – in this case a theatre research project wherein youth in high school classes around the world collaborate on creating a show about their own lives under the guidance of a professor of theatre. Continue reading Review: Towards Youth: A Play on Radical Hope (Project: Humanity/Crow’s Theatre)

Review: Isitwendam (Native Earth Performing Arts)

In 2008, on behalf of the Canadian government, Stephen Harper gave an apology to the First Nations for the suffering that resulted from the Residential School system. Noble enough in its supposed intentions, it represents little more than a placeholder, a tepid acknowledgement of the need for reconciliation—a muddy, fraught concept that Canada is still struggling to wrap its head around.

In the midst of harrowing testimony finally brought to light, we meet the young and eager Brendan—an aspiring politician. He is a half white, half Ojibwe man, desperate to prove himself and get his foot in the door of the Conservative government. Following his hilariously pandering letter of introduction, he is hired by Aboriginal Affairs. His first task? To discredit a Residential School survivor’s reparation claim. And so begins Isitwendam (presented by Native Earth and B2C Theatre), Meegwun Fairbrother’s breathtaking solo performance that both warmed and broke my heart. Continue reading Review: Isitwendam (Native Earth Performing Arts)

Review: New Ideas Festival 2019 – Week 3 (Alumnae Theatre, Ilana Linden, Simone Goldberg and Meredith Heinrich)

Photo of Nance Gibson, Shannon Dickens, Nancy Stewart, Carley Churchill, and Natalie Julien in The Reading CircleToronto’s Alumnae Theatre previews new plays in development at their New Ideas Festival

One of the really nice things about the New Ideas Festival at Alumnae Theatre is that it’s juried. While some of the plays may not be to your taste at least you know that they are chosen because the jury believes they have merit. The festival has been running for 31 years so they’re doing something right.

I always look forward to this opportunity to see new works and works-in-progress from experienced and emerging playwrights. The festival runs for three weeks and each week the format is the same; three or four short pieces make up the main program with a rehearsed reading of a new piece on Saturday at noon. The program is different each week. Continue reading Review: New Ideas Festival 2019 – Week 3 (Alumnae Theatre, Ilana Linden, Simone Goldberg and Meredith Heinrich)

Review: Walking on Bombshells (The Second City)

Toronto’s Second City presents their spring main stage revue

The comedic masterminds at Second City are back with their latest spring main stage revue, Walking on Bombshells. Known for top notch and highly physical sketch comedy, this new collection of sketches is relevant, politically charged, and fuelled with all things Toronto that you can practically hear the TTC chimes in the distance.

Continue reading Review: Walking on Bombshells (The Second City)

Review: The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical (Mirvish/TheaterWorksUSA)

Photo of The Lightning Thief CastMirvish brings the musical adaptation of the popular children’s book to the Toronto stage

Have you ever sat down to watch a show and suddenly felt your age? Going into The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, I only knew it was a young adult book about Greek Gods and their kids.

The Lightning Thief is an ode to its source material, zeroing in on its age-demographic, and its core audience. With an aim to please, I argue it only half-succeeds.

Continue reading Review: The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical (Mirvish/TheaterWorksUSA)

Review: Unsafe (Canadian Stage)

Sook-Yin Lee presents a visceral exploration on censorship in art, at the Berkeley Theatre in Toronto

Unsafe, on stage now at the Berkeley St Theatre, is a rather unique theatrical experience. Told in a documentary style format, this performance features multimedia artist, filmmaker, former MuchMusic VJ and host of CBC Radio One’s Definitely Not the Opera, Sook-Yin Lee in a candid and revealing exploration of censorship in art. To say that this show is edgy and provocative barely scratches the surface. And yet, beneath the surface, what remains is convoluted.

Continue reading Review: Unsafe (Canadian Stage)

Review: Blood of Our Soil (Pyretic Productions/Punctuate! Theatre)

Photo of the company by Dahlia KatzUkraine’s past and present are explored in Lianna Makuch’s play now onstage in Toronto

Blood of Our Soil, by Edmonton’s Lianna Makuch and presented by Pyretic Productions in association with Punctuate! Theatre at the Tarragon Extraspace, is based on her grandmother’s journal accounts of fleeing Ukraine during the Second World War. Like a carefully-preserved box of mementos, the play feels like a discovery of buried treasure. It has been in development for years, and the writing and production have been meticulously, finely honed in that time by the playwright/director Patrick Lundeen, and dramaturg Matthew Mackenzie (writer of the Dora-winning Bears, currently at Factory).

Hania (Makuch) has recently placed her Baba (grandmother) Kateryna in an assisted-living facility. A woman whose past contains severe trauma, Baba says it is easier to forget, but has never forgotten. One of her secrets, concerning her flight to Canada decades ago, is killing her. Horrified by news reports of the Russian incursion into Ukraine that coincide with the cessation of letters from a relative she had to leave behind, Baba causes mayhem in the nursing home, inspiring her granddaughter to go in search of her past.

Continue reading Review: Blood of Our Soil (Pyretic Productions/Punctuate! Theatre)